FenderBender 20th Anniversary Series: Randy Stabler
Randy Stabler worked on cars as a hobby throughout high school, learning the ins and outs of repair from checking out books at the library. Though he traveled down a different path by studying political science at UCLA, after graduation Stabler went back to his hobby and decided to make a career out of it.
Stabler co-founded Pride Auto Body in southern California in 1983. Today, with seven locations and over 200 employees in total, he has truly made a name for himself in the collision industry. As the chairman of the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) from 2015–2016 and from being in the business for several decades, Stabler knows the importance of setting goals and striving to be the best. His business goals are similar to others’ in the industry: constantly improving work culture and outperforming competitors.
How does the industry today compare to what it was like 20 years ago?
From a technological standpoint, the requirements of a collision repair shop are exponentially higher than they’ve ever been. Today, cars are essentially an electronic device with so many sensors and safety mechanisms. There’s a requirement of much higher skills of technicians and estimators.
Going off of that, I think the knowledge that we had 20 years ago could last us a lot longer. Today, our knowledge is so fluid and it becomes obsolete quickly. It’s important to stay up to date on training with working on such advanced cars.
From a customer service standpoint, expectations are much higher. The advent of social media has changed all retail businesses, including those in our industry. Any shortfall in customer service is magnified because customers have a free and easy way to voice their opinions.
Even though you should take everything you read on the Internet with a grain of salt, customers take testimonials as fact. Vehicle owners want the highest quality that they can get, so I think customer service is more important than ever.
What has been the biggest game changer over the past 20 years?
I don’t think there are really any game changers. Of course, there have been big changes to the industry, but the rules of the game are still the same. The game is that a person gets into an accident and needs his or her car fixed. We’re doing the same thing we always have.
Though there have been subtle changes that we’ve had to adapt to, I don’t think there have been any major game changers.
The big shift that’s on the horizon for us, however, is autonomous vehicles. They’re being introduced right now, but these cars are really only in their infancy. Once this really hits us, it’ll be an industry game changer.
What do shops need to do to be successful over the next 20 years?
Shops will need to make much greater financial investments into equipment and training. They will need OEM certifications, first off. Higher training requirements have led to some issues with technician absenteeism, but it’s necessary in order to be successful over the next 20 years.
In terms of equipment, shops will need to invest in electronic testing equipment—often. As of right now, this equipment doesn’t have an outstanding lifespan. It needs to be updated and changed often.
They’ll need to have a layout that is probably very different from what’s in their facilities now. Electric vehicles will be much more popular in 20 years, so investing in electric charging stations now would really pay off. This is something that hasn’t been around before, but I see it becoming a necessary change.
Lastly, I think that shops must be prepared to survive on lower volumes. As vehicles continue to advance, in terms of safety, there will be less collisions in the future.